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Iqaluit ready for the G7
Finance ministers' meeting expected to bring cash into the city

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 28, 2010

NUNAVUT - The hotel rooms are booked, restaurants and taxis are ready and souvenir shops are prepared for an influx of people as Iqaluit prepares to host the G7 finance ministers meeting Feb. 5 to 6.

NNSL photo/graphic

Brian Lunger stands in the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum's permanent collection in Iqaluit Jan. 26. The museum's manager and curator said he expects an influx of visitors for the upcoming G7 summit. Other businesses in the city also expect to be busier. - Jeanne Gagnon/NNSL photo

Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty is scheduled to play host to his counterparts from the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Japan in the Nunavut capital, and such an event attracts not only government officials but foreign media and sometimes even protesters who will need a place to sleep, something to eat and who may check out the city's attractions and buy souvenirs.

February is not traditionally a busy tourism period for Iqaluit except for business travellers, said Colleen Dupuis, CEO of Nunavut Tourism.

"Any event like this has a significant economic effect," she said. "All hotels are booked. All vehicles are rented. Restaurants will be full. All bed and breakfasts will be booked. An event of this profile will certainly help us sell other meetings because we have sold something of this importance."

All the Navigator Inn's 45 rooms and the Nova Inn's 76 rooms are booked, according to the general manager of both inns, Penny Ford.

"They have been spoken for since November 2009," she said. "We're full 80 per cent of 11 months of the year. We do have a lot of conference rooms and government conferences."

She added both inns also have display cases featuring local carvings.

"When we have people coming here, people do like to get original art. We do have a lot of artists walking around," she said.

Ford said she welcomes such an event to the city and is looking forward to it herself.

"It's nice to know that people will know where Iqaluit is," she said. "It's going to bring business all over town. It's going to boost our economy.

"The people coming are really down to earth. They won't invade the city. They want to be here and be part of the town. I think we're pretty lucky to have it," she said.

Pai-Pa Taxi expects both summit days to be business as usual, just busier.

"With the influx of people in town, this would mean more people wanting to go from point A to point B and the colder the weather gets, the busier we will be," said the company's owner and manager Craig Dunphy.

His 40-vehicle fleet runs 24 hours on weekends and from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. weekdays.

"Anytime we have high profile people such as this, it will benefit every business in town. It's always welcome," he said.

The museum will have extended hours Feb. 4 to 7, opening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., including the lunch hour.

"We're prepared and we'll have extra staff on duty for the visitors," said the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum's manager and curator Brian Lunger, adding he hopes to have double the number of visitors coming in.

Anything to increase the number of visitors coming in, such as an event like the G7, is welcome, he said.

"This is a great opportunity to showcase the culture and history of Nunavut to visitors around the world. Special events like this are great for us, the territory and city," he said.

Carvings Nunavut offers soapstone carvings ranging in price from $10 to $1,000, not to mention diamonds and hockey jerseys.

Purchasing agent Allan Mullin said the store has increased its inventory by 10 to 15 per cent for the event.

"We've increased our inventory quite a bit. We've got 20 pieces set aside for the G7, for their gala dinner for centrepieces," he said. "We've ordered a large selection of Aurora diamonds in anticipation of people wanting to buy diamonds."

They will also offer extended hours Feb. 1 to 6, closing three hours later at 9 p.m.

"Art is such hit and miss. An average event, we'll average $50 per person," he said, above and beyond normal sales, not to mention follow-up purchases.

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